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Archive for the 'Essays' Category

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A series of excerpts of past Write the Book Interviews with guests who have had some association with the Vermont Book Award, which will again be presented this Saturday, 9/23/17, at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

Missing from these excerpts are two related authors: Thomas Christopher Greene, president of VCFA, which founded the award, and Tanya Lee Stone, one of this year's judges. I simply didn't have time to excerpt all of the interviews I wanted to! But listen to their full interviews by clicking the links on their names. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week! 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Award-winning and best-selling author Jonathan Lethem with his new essay collection, More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers (Melville House).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Jonathan Lethem. Writers are often encouraged to go out and eavesdrop in cafes and other places where people gather, in order to write down what they overhear and learn how dialogue works. Lethem suggests that we go out to watch people, but not so close that you can actually hear their conversations. Observe them talking to one another, and through interpreting gesture, expression, and attitude, write what you think they MAY be saying to each other.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

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Author Robin Romm, who has edited the new essay collection Double Bind: Women on Ambition (Liveright). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Robin Romm, who teaches at Warren Wilson’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program. One thing she says she loves to do as a writer is--at the end of a day--to write lists of very specific sensory things that she ran across that day. So perhaps a shirt, a clip of dialogue, a person’s face, in no particular order. Not feelings or facts, but colors, sounds, smells, dialogue. So the texture of the couch, or the way the cat looked lying in the sun, or something the mailman said as he waited for you to sign for a package. Having these lists leads to other things in interesting ways and gets you thinking like a writer. Robin says that these snippets will help to get rid of abstract worry and thought and help to focus on scene building.  The sensory and the concrete almost always lead you into more interesting material in a way that intellect almost never does.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont author Jericho Parms, whose essay collection, Lost Wax, was published last fall by University of Georgia Press

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Jericho Parms. This prompt speaks to the process she sometimes used while writing the essays in Lost Wax. She calls it FINDING PROSE (OR POETRY) IN PAINTING:

  • Look at a painting (or sculpture, or image) and free write, in list or sentence form, everything you see. Be as specific and detailed as you can. No observation is too acute or obtuse. Think about color, texture, composition, form. Use your senses. Seek words to match the tone, the textures, the style.
  • Continuing your meditation, allow your thoughts and imagination to roam freely and beyond the canvas. Note any external images or memories that come to mind as you observe the artwork. Seek associations. What are you reminded of? When have you felt this before? What or who (when or where) do you find yourself thinking of/grappling with/curious about?

So that’s Jericho’s prompt for you this week. I’d add one other idea, which is to try your hand at a contour drawing of the painting you study, in much the same way that Jericho drew some of the works that inspired her in writing Lost Wax. The exercise would be to draw some representation of the piece in a single go, without ever raising your pencil. On the cover of Jericho's book, you can see the kind of outcome that such an exercise might inspire.

 lost_wax.jpeg

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Marc Estrin and Donna Bister, founders of Vermont's Fomite Press, "a literary press whose authors and artists explore the human condition -- political, cultural, personal and historical -- in poetry and prose."

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Donna Bister. Write about your first pair of shoes. Or, if you can't remember them, write about your favorite shoes. 

Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).


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Posted in WritingPoliticsActivismCreative NonfictionMeditationNonfictionEnvironment,FoodNatureHistoryMemoirFarmingEssaysHealthgardening on Mar 15th, 2012

Vermont writer Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance, published by Pegasus Books.

Tovar Cerulli's website bio describes him as having had an "outdoorsy" boyhood. This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an outdoorsy experience. 

Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont author Angela Palm, whose new book, Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here, received the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize (Graywolf Press, Aug. 2016). Palm is the editor of a book featuring work by Vermont writers, called Please Do Not Remove (Wind Ridge Books, 2014). She has taught creative writing at Champlain College, New England Young Writers' Conference, The Writers' Barn, and The Renegade Writers' Collective. She is a recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship in nonfiction. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the geography of your own life, and write about it, either directly, or allow a more subtle aspect of place into a piece that concerns another subject. As you work, perhaps consider these words from the late author Judith Kitchen: “Let your conversation get away from you. Let a new story take over. Something may happen along the way, something to alert you to its relevance.” (Judith Kitchen, "The Art of Digression.")

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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A new interview with Abby Frucht, co-author with Vermont writer Laurie Alberts of A Well Made Bed (Red Hen Press). 


This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Abby Frucht. She recommends considering an "invented collaboration." Write the first page of a story or the first set of pages of a novel. Choose a favorite author whose work you respect, who you feel you can learn from. Then pretend you've asked that author to write the next page (or equivalent number of pages) of your new project. Write their part, keeping in mind what you admire about their work, and see what results. Abby says this gives you license to choose an author from whom you feel you can learn. 


Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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A new interview with Sydney Lea, who has just finished his term as Vermont's Poet Laureate. His new books are No Doubt the Nameless (Four Way Books) and What's the Story? Reflections on a Life Grown Long (Green Writers Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by my new interview with Sydney Lea. Write about a dream, or the memory of a dream, or the almost memory of a dream.

Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) Dreaming 1 - John Fink; 2) Filter - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Two interviews this week. First, Lorin Stein, Editor of The Paris Review. Their new collection is called The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review, published by Penguin. My second interview is with Vanessa Blakeslee, author of the novel, Juventud, published by Curbside Splendor.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Lorin Stein, during which we discussed the repeated word, “there,” in the story “The Dark and Winding Road,” by Ottessa Moshfegh, in The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review. Often, writers are told to steer clear of repeating words in close succession in their prose, and yet this story absolutely benefits from the author’s intentional repetition. To my mind, it’s intention that makes the difference. Words that are repeated by accident are unlikely to do much other than bump the reader out of the prose. But words that are chosen and placed carefully in succession to highlight something a writer wants to draw attention to--these can be useful and beautiful. Former WTB guest Priscilla Long writes in her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: “Good writers delight in repeating good words.” She later adds, “If you have trained yourself not to repeat, learning to do the opposite takes practice and it takes developing your ear.” The word “there” in Ottessa Moshfegh’s story becomes a good word--the right word--by the author’s intention. She uses it to highlight the importance of the setting, which lies at the end of a dark and winding road, but I think also to highlight the otherness--the “there”--of the narrator’s present state of mind. This week’s prompt, then, is to use word repetition in a way that will accentuate something intentionally. Practice reading the result out loud, to be sure the music is just right. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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